Trump: ‘We’re not looking at amnesty’

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President Trump on Thursday said he is not considering offering citizenship to young immigrants living illegally in the U.S., pushing back against charges from the right that he has become “Amnesty Don.”

“We’re not looking at citizenship. We’re not looking at amnesty,” he told reporters in Fort Myers, Fla., where he received a briefing on Hurricane Irma. 

“We’re looking at allowing people to stay here,” he added. “Everybody’s on board. They want to do something. We’re not talking about amnesty. We’re talking about taking care of people.”

Trump is trying to soothe his base, which is incensed over his effort to strike a deal with Democrats to address immigrants benefiting from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which he terminated last week.

{mosads}Breitbart News used the headline “Amnesty Don” on a story slamming the president for working with Democrats on immigration, and the moniker was trending in Washington, D.C., early Thursday.

But the president’s comments sowed even more confusion about what exactly he is seeking in an immigration bill. 

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said Trump “does not support amnesty,” but might be open to offering a path to citizenship for some DACA recipients. 

“What the Trump administration will discuss is a responsible path forward in immigration reform,” she told reporters aboard Air Force One just minutes before Trump spoke. “That could include legal citizenship over a period of time.”

Pelosi also contradicted Trump’s comments, telling reporters Thursday the deal she discussed with the president over dinner is based on the DREAM Act and that the president had “an understanding that there’s a path to citizenship in the DREAM Act.”

Many on the right say that any path to citizenship for people in the country illegally constitutes amnesty, even if it involves penalties like paying back taxes and fines. Immigrant-rights activists and Democrats say such a model is not amnesty.

The White House has also sent mixed signals about whether it will demand that money for Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border be attached to a DACA bill. 

Trump said wall funding will “come later,” less than 12 hours after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “excluding the wall was certainly not agreed to.” But after he landed in Florida, Trump declared, “If there’s not a wall, we’re doing nothing.”

An immigration bill like the one Trump discussed with Democratic leaders could further anger his supporters who want him to stick to his campaign promises to crack down on illegal immigration.

Trump pledged to end DACA at an August 2016 campaign rally, and he followed through last week, saying the program would begin to sunset in March.

But the president has also expressed sympathy for the young immigrants covered by the program and ramped up pressure on Congress to act to address their plight.

“Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!” he tweeted Thursday. “They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own — brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security.”

– This story was updated at 11:40 a.m.

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